Now that the state has a new budget and the Legislature has adjourned, Governor Napolitano’s weekly news briefings have turned to a broader variety of topics — from gas prices to impeachment.
At her weekly press briefing July 8, she said in answer to a reporter’s question that she will call a special session of the Legislature to consider the impeachment of Corporation Commissioner Jim Irvin this fall if the House of Representatives investigation produces convincing evidence.
The governor said she has discussed the Irvin situation with House Speaker Jake Flake, R-Dist. 5, and October or November could be the time frame for such a special session.
“I don’t think anyone really knows until Mel McDonald has the opportunity to get into the real investigation and find out what more needs to be done,” the governor said.
Mr. McDonald, a former prosecutor and Superior Court judge, was hired by the House as outside counsel to decide if there is sufficient evidence to warrant impeachment proceedings against Mr. Irvin, who has refused to resign his post.
A federal court jury found him responsible for interference in a proposed purchase four years ago of Southwest Gas Corp. by Southern Union Co. An internal Corporation Commission investigation also suggested that Mr. Irvin had intervened in a Securities Division inquiry into American Mortgage Partners.
“I don’t think there’s a governor in the United States that can control gas prices,” she said in answer to a reporter’s question at her July 8 meeting with the news media. “That’s somewhat left to the free market.”
The governor said she has met with gasoline industry and retail representatives, but did not disclose what was discussed.
The American Automobile Association Arizona reported July 9 that Arizona had the sixth highest per gallon average for regular unleaded fuel among the states at $1.63, compared with a national average of $1.49. And Governor Napolitano said gas prices in Maricopa County tend to be more expensive because of environmental standards.
“We need to take a look at the composition of gasoline,” she said, adding that the Environmental Quality and Commerce departments and the Attorney General’s Office are studying gasoline issues.
Richard Travis, a spokesman for Attorney General Terry Goddard, said the office has studied gas prices for two months and might make recommendations to the Legislature that could stabilize prices in the state.
Prices for regular unleaded in Phoenix reached a high of $2.01 in March, the AAA reported.
Ms. Napolitano must decide by July 15 on the metropolitan Phoenix boundaries for an ozone plan to reduce air pollution.
On another consumer matter, the governor said she was satisfied with the recent settlement between the state and Quest Communications. The company agreed to pay the state $3.75 million after it was charged by then-Attorney General Napolitano with deceptive practices, false and misleading advertising, failing to disclose charges connected with repair and installation and poor customer service.
The agreement did not include an admission of wrongdoing, and Governor Napolitano said July 8 she was confident that new managers and management practices at Quest are putting the company on the right track.
Quest will try to gain support from the Arizona Corporation Commission for its bid to provide long-distance services in Arizona.
Piestewa & Chavez
On other topics, Ms. Napolitano said she was “grateful” the Arizona Board of Geographic and Historic Names upheld its decision to rename Squaw Peak in Phoenix as Piestewa Peak, adding that she still intends to consider changes for the nearly 70 other state locations with the word squaw in their names.
The governor also said a day to honor the late Caesar Chavez, the Arizona-born farm labor activist, “is worth looking at,” but said there’s been no discussion of making it a paid state holiday.
California has a paid state holiday to honor Mr. Chavez.
Arizona became the center of national attention and criticism when Governor Evan Mecham in 1987 rescinded an executive order by Governor Bruce Babbitt for a paid state holiday to honor slain civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1992, voters approved a paid state holiday called Martin Luther King, Jr./Civil Rights Day, the 49th state to do so.
Ms. Napolitano said at her briefing the Summerhaven community on Mount Lemmon near Tucson could serve as a model for rebuilding after a forest fire. The Aspen fire has consumed more than 80,000 acres and destroyed more than 300 homes and businesses.
Ms. Napolitano said she met with Pima County supervisors and Summerhaven residents to discuss ways to rebuild hundreds of burned homes in a “firewise way,” using fire-retardant materials and providing better property spacing and upkeep of grounds near the forest.
Rebuilding requirements should be decisions made by local government, homeowners and insurance companies, she said.
“Done right, that could be a model for the rest of Arizona should we suffer the loss of another community, which we very well could,” the governor said.
On the first day of the Aspen fire, a few Summerhaven residents ignored warnings to evacuate until the second day. Asked whether the Legislature should pass a law mandating evacuation in such circumstances, the governor said there is no need for a law requiring the use of “common sense.” —